NRECA Names Former U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson New CEO

(Arlington, Va.) — The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) today announced that former U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson has been selected to serve as NRECA’s 6th chief executive officer. Matheson will succeed Jo Ann Emerson, who was stricken by a severe illness in August of last year.  He will join the association and assume his duties as CEO in July.

“On behalf of our board of directors, we are extremely excited to have Jim join NRECA,” said NRECA President Mel Coleman. “Jim will bring to the position a broad knowledge of the issues facing rural America and will be an inspirational leader for America’s Electric Cooperatives.”

Matheson currently serves as principal, public policy practice for Squire Patton Boggs, a large well-respected international law firm based in Washington, D.C.  During his tenure in the U.S. House of Representatives, from 2001 to 2015, he served as a member of the House Energy & Commerce Committee.  The respect Matheson has on both sides of the aisle, and his ability to bridge political and policy divides to find common ground, will serve NRECA and all member cooperatives very well.

“I am excited by the opportunity to lead NRECA and to continue to build on its remarkable record of service to its members,” Matheson said. “I am honored to be associated with this member-driven organization that has a strong reputation for quality and integrity.  I look forward to working collaboratively with all of the cooperative community as we look to the future.”

In addition to his extensive background in Congress and public policy, Matheson worked in the energy industry for several years.  He was a project development manager in the independent power industry. He worked at two consulting companies, including his own firm, providing services to large energy consumers.

Jim was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah.  He attended public schools in Salt Lake City, received a Bachelor’s Degree in Government from Harvard University, and an MBA in Finance and Accounting from UCLA.

Youth Tour inspires students, fosters civility in an era lacking it

By Justin LaBerge

On a mild Monday evening less than a week after Mardi Gras, 18-year-old Collin Craig was sitting in a downtown New Orleans hotel room talking to himself. He wasn’t having some sort of psychological episode; he was practicing an important speech.

The next day Collin would stand on a stage in a giant exposition hall at the New Orleans Convention Center. Behind him would be a dazzling array of video screens, some projecting his image larger than life. In front of him would be a sea of 6,000 faces, all several decades older than him, and all quietly waiting to hear what this high school senior from Slocomb, Ala., had to say.

Tuesday morning arrived, and Collin stood backstage in the green room waiting. The emcee called his name, music started playing, and Collin climbed up the steps and into the spotlight. He stood at the podium, and, reading from the kind of teleprompter that’s typically reserved for presidents, told the crowd gathered for the 74th annual meeting of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) about the journey he’d taken in the past year.

A year earlier, Collin had been selected by Wiregrass Electric Cooperative to participate in the 2015 Electric Cooperative Youth Tour.

Every June, nearly 1,700 students from electric cooperatives across the country, including 134 from Tennessee, converge in our nation’s capital for the Youth Tour. Students spend the week visiting monuments and museums, meeting Senators and members of Congress from their state, learning about leadership and the cooperative business model, and forging lifelong friendships with fellow Youth Tour participants from far-away places who were strangers just a few days before.

Each of the 44 states that participate in the program selects one member of their delegation to represent it on the Youth Leadership Council. Members of the council come back to Washington for additional leadership development experiences, serve as youth ambassadors at events hosted by their state’s electric co-ops and represent their states at the annual meeting of America’s electric cooperatives.

The Youth Leadership Council elects one of its members to be the group’s spokesperson and deliver an address at the annual meeting. Last year, they selected Collin.

In his speech, Collin told the audience, “there is a bigger picture that can only be reached through the actions we take to make the world a better place. We can’t do that by ourselves. It’s a collective effort from the leaders in our community who take action and look beyond their own lives.”

When he concluded his remarks, he was given a standing ovation and NRECA President Mel Coleman praised Collin and his 43 fellow members of the Youth Leadership Council.

Though Collin was the man in the spotlight at the annual meeting, all Youth Leadership Council members are leaders in their schools, communities and extracurricular activities.

Shantelle Des Marais, a freshly minted high school graduate from Pipestone, Minn., is one of them.

As a three-sport athlete and competitive dancer, Shantelle keeps a busy schedule. Though she is active in her community, coaching children enrolled in beginner gymnastics and track programs at the local rec center, she had never really paid attention to politics.

Last year, she saw a flyer for a program sponsored by her local electric cooperative, Sioux Valley Energy, called EmPower Youth Leadership. She talked to her school counselor and applied for the program.

After completing the program, she was selected to be a member of the Minnesota Youth Tour delegation, and was later chosen to be the state’s Youth Leadership Council delegate.

“At the start of this whole process, I didn’t even know what a co-op was at all,” Shantelle said. “Now I’ve learned so much about the model and the Seven Cooperative Principles, and it reminds me of how I’d like our country to run. I wish we could all keep those principles in mind and be good to one another.”

Her experience with Youth Tour and the Youth Leadership Council inspired the 18-year-old to get involved in her first presidential election. Not only did Shantelle caucus for the first time, she was selected to be a county delegate.

“The best thing about this whole experience is that it has opened my eyes to different possibilities,” she said.

Another young woman who participated in this eye-opening program was Emma DeMaranville from Tonganoxie, Kan.

Emma was familiar with her local electric cooperative, but had no idea how many different types of cooperatives there are and the impact they’ve had throughout the U.S. and the world.

Her grandmother had seen the opportunities other students had gained through the Youth Tour program and urged Emma to apply.

An active member of Family Career and Community Leaders of America who also participates in forensics, debate and theatre, Emma was selected to represent Leavenworth-Jefferson Electric as a member of the Kansas Youth Tour delegation.

“Every kid on Youth Tour has big aspirations, and their goals inspired me to do something with my career and future that could make an impact,” Emma said. “Being in the nation’s capital with some of the most passionate and intelligent people I have ever met made me feel like I could do anything.”

One common theme mentioned by all three of these young leaders was the need to cooperate, be respectful and find common ground to solve problems.

Collin recounted the many spirited conversations he had with other YLC delegates on important issues. “There were times when we might have different opinions, but there were never any fights, rivalries or hatreds. In fact, we used these debates to strengthen each other. We learned how to unite. Diversity doesn’t cause adversity, it can demolish it,” he said.

Emma said she’s gained a better understanding of other people, and the similarities and differences in their lives. “I want to do bipartisan work to make a difference for the people around me. Youth Tour helped me see the struggles others face, and has instilled in me a desire to create change on a global level.”

Shantelle said her experiences have helped her realize that great leaders are real people, too. “You go to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial or the Lincoln Memorial, and you think about the great things these leaders did and how they helped me get where I am today. It always feels like something so far off. But then I got to meet my Senators and you realize that they’re real people and maybe I could do this some day.”

All three of these students plan to attend public universities in their home states this fall, and say the experiences they’ve gained over the past year have influenced what they’ll study and how they plan to live their lives after college.

“If you had asked me a year ago what I wanted to do with my life, I would’ve said ‘I don’t know. Probably something with computers.’ I still plan to major in computer science, but that’s just the foundation for many different things Youth Tour has inspired me to pursue,” Collin said.

Youth Tour is a joint investment made by your local electric cooperative, the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. When Youth Tour participants arrive in Washington each June, the expectation is that they will learn from our political leaders and be inspired to do great things in their communities.

Based on the wisdom and maturity displayed by Collin, Shantelle and Emma, our future is certainly bright, and our current elected leaders could learn as much from the students as the students learn from them.

Justin LaBerge writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Arlington, Va.-based service arm of the nation’s 900-plus consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives.


  • How do co-op youth programs impact our local communities? Read [link or reference article] to find out. <IMAGE>


What’s in it for “we?”

One of the most attractive features of cooperatives is that we answer the popular question, “What’s in it for me?” with “What’s in it for we!” Cooperatives are formed when the market fails to offer a good or service, with decent quality, at an affordable price. Electric cooperatives in Tennessee were formed in the 1930s because, when investor-owned utilities realized there was not enough profit to be made in our community, they refused to offer electricity.

The founding members of these co-ops went door to door to collect $5 in order to raise a portion of the original investment the co-op needed. Those “go-getters” realized the only way to get electricity for me was to get it for we, the whole community.

Cooperative ownership is in the hands of the people who use the co-op’s goods and the services (not investors), so not only do co-ops start out answering the question of “What’s in it for we?” – they continue to answer that question for as long as they exist.

These days, we often hear about companies that abandon their local communities and move overseas in search of cheaper labor. This negatively impacts the community through job loss, decline in housing values and school closures. Because local residents own a majority of cooperatives, they are less likely to leave their community. In fact, it would be impossible for Tennessee’s electric cooperatives to operate elsewhere. The co-op is a critical part of what makes the community a community.

The way co-ops continue to answer the question, “What’s in it for we?” is critical to their survival. It is imperative that we keep you – our members – as the primary focus. Keeping rates as low as possible is one major part of that focus, but ensuring that we provide real value as your trusted energy advisor is also extremely important.

By maintaining that focus with your help and support, we will continue to be able to serve the “me” and the “we” in our community long into the future.

Co-ops are prepared for summer storms

Summer is here, school is out and families are gearing up for a few months of fun and relaxation. While summer brings much fun in the sun, it can also bring the occasional severe storm. In the event of a power outage, you can trust that your local electric cooperative is ready to respond.

The major cause of most power outages comes from damage to power lines due to falling trees and branches. We work year round – through right-of-way clearing – to ensure power lines in our service territory stand little risk of being damaged by trees, branches or other types of vegetation.

Despite our best efforts, during major storms, damage can occur to transmission stations, substations and power lines. When this happens, our first priority is to safely restore power to as many members as possible in the shortest amount of time.

We start by mobilizing our line crews and other critical staff. Every phone line available is utilized to take your outage report calls. The big problems are handled first – like damage to transmission lines, which serve tens of thousands of people. These problems must be corrected before we can focus on other areas where more localized damage may have occurred.

Co-op line crews inspect substations to determine if the problem starts there, or if there could be an issue down the line. If the root of the problem is at the substation, power can be restored to thousands of members.

Next, line crews check the service lines that deliver power into neighborhoods and communities. Line crews repair the damaged lines, restoring power to hundreds of people. If you continue to experience an outage, there may be damage to a tap line outside of your home or business. Make sure you notify your local co-op so crews can inspect these lines.

We will do our best to avoid power outages, but sometimes Mother Nature has other plans.

Meghaan Evans writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Arlington, Va.-based service arm of the nation’s 900-plus consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives.

June 2016


Move Over Law Reminder



Move Over and Save a Life

Five years after the Tennessee’s Move Over Law was expanded to include utility workers, lineman continue to face roadside hazards


[HEADQUARTERS CITY] – In 2011, following efforts by Tennessee’s electric cooperatives and municipal utilities, the state’s Move Over law was revised to not only include police, firefighters and other first responders, but utility workers as well. Unfortunately, motorists do not always heed the law.

[CO-OP LINEMAN QUOTE – DESCRIBE A CLOSE CALL OR USE THIS SAMPLE] “We have to concentrate on the dangers on the pole and on the ground. We have had cars come through way too fast, hitting the cones we have set up and clipping the outriggers that we have down to support the trucks,” says [LINEMAN NAME, TITLE]. “We see lots of people looking at their phones and not paying attention like they should.”

The requirements of the law are simple. On a four lane road, if safety and traffic conditions allow, a driver approaching a utility vehicle with flashing lights should move into the far lane. On a two lane road or when changing lanes is not possible, a driver should reduce their speed.

Electric co-op vehicles aren’t the only utility vehicles covered; service vehicles used by municipal electric systems, telephone companies and utility districts are also protected by the law.

“July marks the 5th anniversary of the expansion of the law, but most motorists are still not aware of it,” says [CO-OP CEO NAME, TITLE, CO-OP]. “Our lineman perform an important job for our community. Changing lanes or slowing down to give them a little space is a simple courtesy that could save a life.”

More information about the law is available at




The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association provides legislative and communication support for Tennessee’s 23 electric cooperatives and publishes The Tennessee Magazine, the state’s most widely circulated periodical. Visit or to learn more.


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Trent Scott | Vice President of Strategy | 615.515.5534 |

Washington Youth Tour depart



Local Students Depart for Nation’s Capital

[HEADQUARTERS CITY] – [XX] students from [COUNTY NAME or REGION] are headed to Washington, D.C. as a part of the 2016 Washington Youth Tour. [STUDENT NAME AND SCHOOL], [STUDENT NAME AND SCHOOL] and [STUDENT NAME AND SCHOOL] will join more than 130 other students from across Tennessee on the weeklong trip beginning on Friday, June 10.

The annual event, sponsored by [CO-OP NAME] and the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association, provides young leaders with an opportunity to explore the nation’s capital, learn about government and cooperatives and develop their leadership skills. Students were selected for the trip by writing a short story titled “Electric Cooperatives – Powering Everyday Life” that explains how co-ops provide communities with much more than electric power.

“The youth tour is an incredible opportunity for these students to actually experience history up-close and personal,” says [CO-OP EMPLOYEE, TITLE]. “Delegates experience a whirlwind of a week, visiting museums, monuments and other landmarks.”

President Lyndon Johnson inspired the tour in 1957 when he encouraged electric cooperatives to send youngsters to the nation’s capital. In the years since, more than 6,000 young Tennesseans have been delegates for the Washington Youth Tour.


The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association provides legislative and communication support for Tennessee’s 23 electric cooperatives and publishes The Tennessee Magazine, the state’s most widely circulated periodical. Visit or to learn more.


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Students will be departing from [LOCATION] on [DATE, TIME]. Media is invited and interviews can be arranged.




Trent Scott | Vice President of Strategy | 615.515.5534 |

Co-op Governance

Talking Points | May 2016


Electric cooperatives are member-owned and not-for-profit.
Electric cooperatives are owned by the consumers they serve. These consumers are members of the cooperative. Co-ops provide cost-based power to their members.

Electric cooperatives are member-regulated.
Co-op members elect a board of directors who oversee the activities of the cooperative, including rates, establishing policies and procedures and approving budgets. Co-ops are further regulated by the Tennessee Valley Authority, their power supplier and an agency of the federal government.

A co-op member can seek a nomination to the board of directors.
[Provide information on your co-op’s nomination and/or petition process, including dates.]

All co-op members are encouraged to vote in the annual board election.
[Provide information on your co-op’s election, including dates.]

Tennessee co-ops are private corporations.
Co-ops are not subject to sunshine laws or open records requirements.


Visit from elected official



[Politician name] visits [co-op name]

[CITY] – [Politician Name] met with leaders from [co-op] today in [location] to tour the co-op’s facilities and better understand how the utility operates.

[briefly describe visit]

[quote from politician]

“Electric cooperatives like [co-op] are not-for-profit and member-owned. That makes us rather unusual in the utility world,” says [co-op] [president title and name. “Each year [politician] reviews several pieces of legislation that can impact how we operate. Visits like this allow him to meet our employees and see the work that goes into providing our members with affordable and reliable power.”

“[Politician name] has always been supportive of our work at [co-op],” says [co-op leader last name]. “We know his time is valuable, and we appreciate him taking the time to visit with us.”

[co-op boilerplate]


#   #   #





Members speak up at 2016 TECA TennCom Conference

The name was not the only change visible in this year’s TECA Marketing, Communications and Member Service Conference, now known as TennCom. A new session allowed attendees to hear from co-op members.

Four co-op members from various backgrounds and all parts of the state participated in the first “State of the Member” panel discussion. Panelists were Wendy Abbott from Sequachee Valley EC, Ashley Brown from Duck River EMC, Ryan Hysmith from Southwest Tennessee EMC and Tarren Quarrels from Tennessee Valley EC .

“It is incredibly important that we understand the needs of our members,” says Trent Scott, Vice President of Strategy for TECA and facilitator of the panel discussion. “We recognize that this was not a scientific study, but it does provide co-op employees with valuable insights into the perceptions, ideas and attitudes of co-op members.”

When asked if the panelist considered themselves customers or members, one responded “customer” and three responded “both.” “I said customer, but if you stress what it means to be a member, you feel like you are not just buying something. You feel like you are getting more for your money,” said Ryan Hysmith, a finance professor at Freed Hardeman University and member of Southwest Tennessee EMC. “I agree,” added Tarren Quarrels, a small business owner and member of Tennessee Valley EC. “I think that education on the benefits of being a member over a customer is important. Explaining that you are a partial owner helps people know that their voice is being heard.”

When asked how they paid their bills, the two older members reported paying online and the younger panelists reported paying in the office. “I have always been an old-school person, and we always paid in person. About six months ago, I did go online and pay our bill, and it is awesome,” said Wendy Abbott. “These were not the responses that I expected, but it is a good reminder that age, or any other demographic, is not an accurate way to predict member preferences,” says Scott.

When asked what source was used to generate a majority of the energy in their home, three of the four panelists responded “hydro.” “It is helpful for us to be aware of misconceptions,” says Scott. “We must not simply ask our members to take action on issues, but we must also help them understand how those issues affect them.”

The panel shared their thoughts and opinions on other topics such as energy efficiency, rates, legislative activities and broadband. Listen to audio of the entire session above.